CEO tells the story of K-State Olathe

June 22, 2010

jcertOLATHE, Kan. - From the beginning, K-State Olathe is an improbable story. In one of the worst economic periods in United States history since the Great Depression, Kansas State University and the University of Kansas petitioned Johnson County citizens to vote for an increased sales tax to fund K-State campus in Olathe, the KU Edwards campus and KU's medical school. Incredibly, this tax passed. Dan Richardson, CEO of K-State Olathe, who has international connections in both academia and industry, said the passing of the JCERT (Johnson County Education and Research Triangle) tax sent a message that literally rang around the world.

"I've had people calling me from all over that cannot believe that that could happen," Richardson said. "They said, '"Wow, what a testament to Johnson County's commitment to education.'"

Before the tax was even passed, Olathe had donated the land for the campus, and in exchange K-State has already begun to partner with Olathe high schools.

In addition to receiving land for the campus from Olathe and funding from Johnson County, K-State Olathe partnered with the Kansas Bioscience Authority to create the Kansas Bioscience Park. Richardson said KBA will develop business growth in the area while research is going on at K-State Olathe. When technology is ready to be commercialized, it can simply be moved to a different building in the park.

Lindy Eakin, K-State Olathe's Director of Fiscal Affairs, said this campus presents an opportunity to find new and different ways to accomplish goals – an opportunity to depart from the traditional wisdom of "We've always done it that way."

Programs will focus on the needs of the animal health and food safety industry. K-State Olathe is set up as a corporation controlled by K-State. Because of this, companies in the Kansas City area can come to the researchers at K-State Olathe about technology they need, and the researchers can develop methods and products for use in the real world.

Richardson also wants the campus to be a destination point for the public – somewhere people come to learn about opportunities in education, research and technology. To that end, the first building will be a welcoming place. Richardson said many aspects of the building are beginning to send the message of a place that will be a crossroads for education and industry.

ThOlathe campuse International Animal Health and Food Safety Institute will have a bistro, which will be able to convey education about food safety to the public. The teaching facilities are being constructed to meet the needs of adult learners as well as younger graduate students, and research labs are being designed to find, develop and commercialize technology as needed.

All in all, K-State Olathe's story is one of an area's commitment to education – giving both high school students and businesses access to relevant research and increasing general awareness of the importance of animal health and food safety.

- By Ashley Dunkak -